Although markedly better than his previous small-scaled, self-financed film, "Youth Without Youth," Francis Ford Coppola's "Tetro" is still a work of modest ambition and appeal. Gloriously shot in mostly black-and-white widescreen in Buenos Aires, Coppola's first original screenplay since 1974's "The Conversation" hinges on the tension between two long-separated brothers dominated by an artistic genius father. The angst-ridden treatment of Oedipal issues makes the picture play out like a passably talented imitation of O'Neill, Williams, Miller and Inge, and thus it feels like the pale product of an over-tilled field. Coppola will release the film himself Stateside, doubtless to marginal returns, and in the long run, "Tetro" likely will be most remembered for introducing a highly promising young actor, Alden Ehrenreich.
Allegedly first noticed by Steven Spielberg in a homevideo played at a bat mitzvah and subsequently discovered by longtime casting ace and producer Fred Roos, the 18-year-old Ehrenreich manages the remarkable feat of resembling by turns three of the leading actors from "The Departed": When he first appears, he looks like the younger brother of Leonardo DiCaprio; then, at certain moments, his smile and the look in his eye recall Jack Nicholson, while his head and facial shape are reminiscent of Matt Damon. Not only that, he has a winning screen presence and proves entirely up to the role's dramatic requirements.
Ehrenreich plays Bennie, who, clad in the spiffy whites of a cruise ship attendant, uses a Buenos Aires layover to track down his brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo). Arriving unannounced at the apartment his brother shares with g.f. Miranda (Maribel Verdu) in the artsy La Boca district, Bennie wants to know why Tetro never followed up on his promise to come back for him when the older boy left home a decade earlier.
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